R800k a month, but we’re stuck with Quantum Leap

“We are paying R800k a month for poor service! It is the job of the Community Services portfolio committee to raise the matter of poor service from Quantum Leap…” says MM Bonga Ntanzi. Photo: Estella Naicker.

APRIL 1, 2003 marked the first day of the twenty year tender between AbaQulusi Municipality and Quantum Leap which now sees the latter currently receiving a whopping monthly payout of approximately R800k from the former.

R800k a month? A twenty year tender? Sounds like an April fool’s joke, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

The announcement of the hefty fee to the local landscaping company appeared to garner a reaction of all round disbelief when it was laid out on the table by AbaQulusi’s Municipal Manager, Bonga Ntanzi, at a meeting of the Community Services Portfolio committee.

“We can’t be an ostrich,” he stated matter-of-factly. “We are paying R800k a month for poor service! It is the job of the Community Services portfolio committee to raise the matter of poor service from Quantum Leap…”

Quantum Leap’s Director, Rev AH Mbatha however, states that this is not the case and claims that one of the many challenges accompanying the task of providing this service to the municipality is the uncertainty when it comes to receiving payment from them.

“Our agreed-to operational budget was last increased in 2006,” he states. “We buy fuel, in today’s price, with the 2006 budget. Same with maintenance and procurement,” he adds. “As stated, we never know when to expect payment, if at all…”

Quantum Leap, the service provider on the receiving end of this whopping monthly payout – or perhaps not, according to Mbatha – is a familiar name to anyone who has been following the goings on at the municipality for the last 17 years, or so, the approximate amount of time that this service provider has been providing, or apparently not providing, a service to AbaQulusi’s estranged and embittered municipality.

“We are stuck with Quantum Leap…” confirms AbaQulusi Municipal Manager, Bonga Ntanzi, disapprovingly. “We are paying them in full, but they are not bringing their side… Nothing is being done in Mondlo.”

Ntanzi warns of the looming financial implications the 20 year tender on AbaQulusi, an already financially overwhelmed municipality. He also points out that a twenty year contract with a service provider is a ridiculous notion and should never have been authorised in the first place.

But who was holding the pen when it came to the signing of this controversial contract back on June 20, 2003, when the agreement was signed between AbaQulusi Municipality and Quantum Leap?

The Municipal Manager at the time was Bamba Ndwandwe who, on September 18, 2001 was officially delegated all powers, including signing power as MM, rescinded from former Acting MM, Joos le Roux, in the presence of Mayor at that time, Elsie Moolman, allowing him authority to enter into the contract, which he did…

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On June 20, 2003, another contract was signed between the two parties, an agreement of sale of specified assets to the value of R950 000 from AbaQulusi Municipality to Quantum Leap. A physical count of all available equipment in the Parks and Recreation Department was done on December 4, 2002 and this list includes 14 tractors, two ride-on mowers, three bakkies, two trailers, two trucks and a whole host of other landscaping equipment, such as slashers, brushcutters, lawnmowers and other implements in the Vryheid and Bhekuzulu Depot alone. The Hlobane and Louwsburg Depots were also checked and an inventory list submitted by AM Zondo, the Executive Manager of Community Services for AbaQulusi Municipality at the time.

Andrè van der Walt, who left the Municipality in 2005, but was called back in 2007 to attend a meeting in the Pietermaritzburg chambers of Adv Hartsenberg on September 20, 2007, to assist the municipality in cancelling the contract with Quantum Leap, doubts whether payment was made on this equipment.

“All the equipment – tractors, slashers, a big truck, four or five bakkies and lots of lawnmowers, etc, were given to him free of charge,” states Van der Walt, who is the current Chairman of AfriForum Vryheid. “He no longer has even a quarter of the machinery left…”

The twenty year tender agreement between AbaQulusi Municipality and this service provider has created a frustrating impasse. Fears that Quantum Leap is currently understaffed, leaving them in breach of contract and unable to adequately perform their obligated duties, are having a negative impact on not only Vryheid, but also the surrounding areas that make up the AbaQulusi region, including Mondlo, where nothing is being done, according to the MM.

Mbatha states that this is not the case. “That is not true,” he insists. “In fact, we have not reached the agreed-to staff compliment of 42. The organisation is currently under restructuring to right size itself according to available financial and human resources…”

With regard to recruitments, Mbatha adds that one of the challenges Quantum Leap faces is the expectation that they have to provide employment to people from wards within our boundaries.

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But this is just one of many challenges the long-term service provider claims to be experiencing in these twilight years of the two decade tender agreement.

While the area specified in the agreement between Quantum Leap and AbaQulusi Municipality states “the land within the boundaries of Vryheid, Bhekuzulu, Hlobane, Ngotshe and Emondlo…” Rev Mbatha points out a growing challenge that has come about through the development of the town and surrounding areas and now affects the scope of work.

“Boundaries have changed,” states the reverend. “Some areas like Coronation and Nkongolwane remain outside the Quantum Leap mandate and yet they are now part of our municipality. The town also has developed new areas that are not part of the contract. This is causing resentment from people from those new areas…” he adds.

The twenty year tender agreement between AbaQulusi Municipality and this service provider has created a frustrating impasse and it seems that there is no way out. What does seem likely, however is that the controversial twenty year contract between Quantum Leap and the municipality will be a benchmark for what to avoid when awarding future tenders and the very last of its lengthy kind.

“We need to ‘spread the cake’,” advises the MM. “Moving forward, we must shorten tenders and give our community the opportunity to grow their businesses,” he elaborates.

The contentious issue of the Quantum Leap vs AbaQulusi Municipality debacle is far too complex to sum up in one article, so watch this space for further updates.

  AUTHOR
Elaine Rodway

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